AV in the next 10 years: Harald Steindl, Mocom

With InAVate EMEA celebrating its 10th birthday this year, Tim Kridel canvasses opinion from distributors, integrators, manufacturers and consultants about what they thought would be the biggest changes in pro AV over the next 10 years?

In the Jan/Feb edition of InAVate magazine Tim Kridel looked ten years into the future with a cross-section of the AV industry. As an online exclusive you can also read some more detailed viewpoints from some of the people he interviewed for the article. 

The series starts with Harald Steindl, an owner of Austrian distributor Mocom.

Well, 10 years is a looong period. But these are my predictions or words of wisdom:

Regarding the potential of a global AV giant: 
Much more likely than a real global giant is the fact, that more or less ALL IT-integrators will get their feet into AV. The current situation of most IT folks staying out of AV is due to the complexity of AV. But complexity is probably the wrong term. Until quite recently it was not easy to “learn” AV, it was kind of a dark art. With more and more AV certification programs, AV can and will be learned as “easily” as IT. The more software/programming/etc will come into AV and the more soldering and running wires goes away, there is not that much difference anyhow. Well despite the emotions of a great picture or bombastic sound that is.

War of talents:
IT companies do have a much stronger arm to attract young people. So even if the job is a traditional AV job, an IT company will be more successful attracting people than an AV company. 

Bigger companies buy from bigger companies:
Currently sometimes it is rather surreal, that huge companies rely on tiny, tiny AV companies. Historically this was normal, as AV guys only took care of the prime offices much like other “artisans” built the CEOs conference table whereas the pure mortals got industrial built cubicles. With AV now being “everywhere” it is quite natural to also have bigger suppliers. Almost every AV integrator will lose this race to getting big and fast (also because some IT guys ARE already big)

Digital signage is THE catalyst for IT guys doing AV:
Digital signage is technically mostly easy from an AV standpoint but has a lot of software involved. Even more important is the fact, that digital signage is more often than not a real project. This means carefully planned, OK’d by top level management, and rolled out with lots of project management. Not to forget a long term service contract. Sadly enough, this is not how the current AV integrator operates!

My very personal opinion:
Not only AV but the whole building will get organised by a department we currently know as IT!!!

Let me explain: Their boss is the CTO or CIO. His or her job is it to provide all the needed resources for the “operating people” of a company. Being a C-level position he/she is actively interested in the success of the company. This is fundamentally different than your average “senior house keeper” who is more interested in not having too much work! ;-)
The CIO/CTO are used to permanently looking for new opportunities to bring down cost, getting the efficiency up and (very important) is used to have controlling in place to justify their investments. These “mode of operation” is needed also in other parts of an organisation besides the “computers”. Because of this the CIO/CTO will be in charge of AV and not necessarily because of technological reasons.

This means that AV will need to justify itself. A significant portion of the AV business is still happening, because some people want it, not because there is a business need for it. Yes, I know this sounds controversial but let’s face it: How often is the investment into AV really evaluated, i.e. with cost vs. benefit as in “what would it really cost if we did not invest”? Sorry to say, almost never. Meeting rooms “need” AV and therefore there “is” AV. What a difference to other projects within an organisation. 

We already feel it: In many companies the AV budget is shrinking significantly. Not because there is no need for AV, but for the simple reason, that the whole AV industry is not yet used to this “tell me, why I must invest into this”. The AV industry still acting in general as in the good old days of AV, where we tried to convince somebody that AV is cool and if he/she really wants it, they have to find some special budget to fulfil their dreams. This is fundamentally different to getting the budget for a specific purpose named “spend to save”.  We invest x amount of money in order to strengthen our efficiency etc. NOT because a big picture on the wall is sexy!

YES, there will always be the sexy side of AV as in CEO boardroom and such but this will be just a tiny fraction of the market.

People tend to forget that it is just around 10 years, since AV kind of broke out of this ivory tower of the high levels and went mainstream. 

Going into a meeting was a privilege for the highest ranks back then; now everyone is having meetings, so everyone is using AV.

Industry changes:
Manufacturers will go much more direct than currently. The so called AV-distributor as a local representative of more often than not multiple brands in the various countries will go away quickly. Brands will have to have their own sales offices in each and every territory. Most likely they will leverage traditional mega-distributors like Ingram Micro and such for logistics and finance. This is exactly the same model as IT products are currently sold.

Also the dealers will focus on fewer brands and will move much closer to them. Gone will be the days of the AV integrator who changes suppliers as fast as their underwear. It will be long term a strategic decision if you are a Harman or Crestron dealer. The current model, that the majority of AV integrators basically supply “all brands” the customer could ever ask them for will be gone soon. Again, not only because of technical reasons but for strategic reasons. 

Brands are simply not interested in having hundreds of “me too” dealers. The job is selling to the end user and generating market and not to convince the dealer to choose “our” brand for his next project. Currently it seems that the majority of sales effort of AV brands go into this “convincing of the dealer”; what a waste!

Just think about if BMW would concentrate most of their effort/time/budget in massaging the dealer instead of working the target end user?

Other Q&As in the series:
Biamp Systems
Cordless Consultants
Hewshott International

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